Monthly Archives: August 2016

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US

AUGUST 20, 2016

ONE YEAR ON THE ROAD РHOORAY FOR US  (champagne, confetti, applause)

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When we pulled out of our driveway a year ago, we thought OK – we’ll try this for 3 to 6 months, and make a decision. ¬†Well, here we are one year later, and still loving it. ¬†I can’t say there haven’t been a few missteps along the way, but pretty much, everyday’s been a good day. ¬†Yes, the trailer gets a little smaller each day, but not so much that we would end this journey. ¬†We’ve seen so much, and made so many new friends. ¬†It’s been wonderful. ¬†We don’t miss our fairly large home, or all of the work that goes along with home ownership ¬†The only thing we miss is our children, extended family, and of course, Timmy, Daniel, and Matthew. ¬†They are surely what ¬†has us headed east. ¬†But before that happens, let’s continue the journey as it unfolds.

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On the 20th, we pulled into Tim’s sister’s home in California. ¬†It was a delight to visit Patty. ¬†She has a new pet, a rescued German Shepherd. ¬†Patty just got her, so she was a little skittish. ¬†We had fun helping come up with a name for her. ¬†Emmy Lou? – for Emmy Lou Harris? ¬†Foxy, because she has a bushy tail like a fox? ¬†or Sweetie Pie, because that’s what she is – a sweetie pie. My Dad had German Shepherds while we were kids and growing up, and I’ve never met a more loving and sweet dog, and so, Sweetie Pie it is.

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That night the three of us celebrated our one year on the road by drinking a bottle of champagne from Roederer Estate, that we picked up in California,  way before our journey to Alaska.  We shared good food, good conversation and laughs.

ROEDERER ESTATE TASTING ROOM

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From Patty’s, we decided to head to Lake Tahoe, where neither of us had ever been. ¬†Tahoe is a beautiful lake. ¬†And lucky us, there was a sun shower.

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There seems to be quite a bit to do, and several nice casinos. ¬†It was difficult to find a place to stay. ¬†One campground had spaces, but I’m sorry to say, we arrived just after 7pm, and they close at 7pm. ¬†I even spoke to the camp host, and told her we were exhausted. ¬†She was pleasant, but still would not permit us to stay, not even for a night. ¬†Now it’s dark, and we don’t have a place to stay. ¬†I know – WALMART.

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¬†We’ve never stayed n a Walmart parking lot before, although many do. ¬†It’s called “Boondocking”, and it’s free. ¬†We had a good night’s rest, surrounded by other RVs. ¬†And the best part? ¬†There is no check-out time. ¬†I guess we are officially RVers ! Cute story – when we visited my cousin Cheryl in Colorado Springs, she said that there was a Walmart close by. ¬†However, due to the fact that so many RVs stayed for way too long, they no longer allow overnight “guests”. ¬†What a hoot!

After Lake Tahoe, we decided to drive “The Lonliest Road in America”,¬†across Nevada.

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It is a much longer route to Las Vegas, but the dots on the map that straddle Route 50 announce that it is scenic. ¬†It truly is lonely and desolate, but beautiful with it’s ever changing topography of rolling mountains and broad, flat valleys. It’s silent and peaceful, and incredibly expansive. ¬†Travelers are rare and the few settlements are fifty or more miles apart. ¬†For hundreds of miles, hours and hours, you feel alone with nature.

The first night was spent in the tiny town of Austin, NV.  This is the entire town.

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We found a place for the night called¬†Pony Express RV Park. ¬†Although they had full hook-ups for us, that’s where the amenities ended. ¬†In fact, you put your money in the provided envelope, and slipped it into the slot in a metal box. ¬†I want to show you a picture of the picnic table.

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Enough said!!!

The continued ¬†long but very scenic drive took us to Ely, Nevada ( pronounced Eeelee). ¬†There we found the Prospector Hotel And Gambling Hall (and RV Park) (see review in Campgrounds).¬†We weren’t sure what we would find, but, lo and behold, it was wonderful. ¬†An immaculate little hotel, with a Mexican restaurant, 100 slot machines, and 22 full service sites. ¬†And, access to their pool, fitness room, and laundry. ¬†Not bad for $22 per night.

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Ely is a gateway to Great Basin National Park. ¬†Again, stunning. ¬†This park is located in east-central Nevada, near the Utah border. It was established in 1986.¬†The park gets its name from, naturally, ¬†the Great Basin, the dry and mountainous region between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Mountains. The park ¬†protects 77,180 acres, but the Great Basin itself has a diameter of 500 miles. ¬†The summer climate is delightful. ¬†We’d even consider settling here –What’s that? ¬†Winters reach 40 degrees below zero?! ¬†I think we better think this out again.

This National Park is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines, the oldest known non-clonal organisms; and for the Lehman Caves, proclaimed a National Monument by President Warren G. Harding on January 24, 1922.

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Bristlecone pines are remarkable for their great age and their ability to survive adverse growing conditions. In fact, it seems one secret to their longevity is the harsh environment in which most bristlecone pines grow. ¬†The trees in¬†Great Basin ¬†grow in isolated groves just below the treeline. Conditions are harsh, with cold temperatures, a short growing season, and high winds. Bristlecone pines in these high-elevation environments grow very slowly, and in some years don’t even add a ring of growth. This slow growth makes their wood very dense and resistant to insects, fungi, rot, and erosion. ”¬†In the summer of 1964, a geographer by the name of Donald R. Currey was doing research on ice age glaciology. He was granted permission from the United States Forest Service to take core samples from numerous bristlecone pines growing ¬†beneath Wheeler Peak to try and age the glacial features these ancient trees grow on. Currey was studying the variations in width of the rings of bristlecone pine trees, which were believed to be over 4,000 years old, to determine patterns of good and bad growing seasons in the past. Due to their old age, these trees act as climatic vaults, storing thousands of years of weather data within their rings. This method of research is valuable to the study of climate change.” ¬†– NPS

The NPS Visitors Center displays a cross section of a tree that’s been on earth for over 4,000 years. ¬†Pins along the rings mark a timeline of historical events. ¬†This tree was a sapling as the pyramids of Egypt were under construction. ¬†That is something to truly marvel at!!!

There are tours through the¬†Lehman Caves. ¬†I was all for doing the caves, but Tim is a bit claustrophobic. ¬†He’s not wild about ¬†any small spaces, elevators, or even being stuck in traffic. ¬†He quit wrestling in school because he couldn’t stand it when he was on the bottom, with someone holding him down. ¬†But guess what? ¬†Talk about conquering your fears! ¬†Here’s a pic of my guy inside the cave, with a lantern no less.

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The tiny towns we passed on our way to Great Basin were not without their oddities.  Here in Ely we have Antler Arch.  Elk antlers interweave to form a magnificent square entry arch for a ranch where they make specialty lighting and furniture using antlers.  There are Antler chandeliers on both ends of the arch.

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Note:  During December, the antlers of mule and white-tail deer, moose and stag caribou fall to the ground, making it common to see animals with just a single antler. Elk retain their antlers throughout the winter, only shedding them with the onset of spring.

But my personal roadside oddity thus far has got to be this one.

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I haven’t been able to find a reference for it anywhere. ¬†Is it “folk art”? ¬†A memorial to a loved one? ¬†or just a representation of eternal rest. ¬†Maybe we’ll never know, but I love it.

From Ely, we press on to Caliente, NV. ¬†What a great name, for such a tiny town. ¬†This is our last stop before Las Vegas. ¬†Time to do chores like laundry and general cleaning. ¬†We only want to have fun when we arrive. ¬†I hope you’re ready for “Sin City”. ¬†We sure are…see you there…

N’ICE ICE BABY

August, 2016

Yeah, back in the USA!  First stop Anacortes, WA, on Fidalgo Island, where we satisfied our yen for Native American culture with a visit to the Swimonish Reservation (and casino, of course).

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Thought we would revisit Mount Rainier in Washington, on our way south. It ascends to 14,410 feet above sea level, and is an icon on the Washington landscape. It is the most glaciated peak in the lower 48.  It is also an active volcano.  Sort of crazy when you think that with all of that ice, if you were to reach the top, you would feel the hot steam from its smoldering insides.

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While leaving, we saw this wonderful waterfall with a permanent rainbow.  Wow!!

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Bend, Oregon was on our list of “must-sees”, and here we are. ¬†It’s on a few lists as a top 10 city – and we can see why. There are 3 Distilleries, ¬†several wineries, and about 29 – yep- 29 breweries. ¬†There is also a place that ferments tea called Hmmm Kombusha. ¬†There are galleries and theaters, and all manner of cultural and outdoor activities. ¬†We went downtown to check out the Mill District, which is a mall. ¬†But not just any mall. ¬†It was built beside the Deschutes River, and this is what we saw while strolling around the mall.

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Doesn’t that look like fun? ¬†SUPs, kayaks, swimming dogs, and lots and lots of floats; hundreds of folks spending a lazy afternoon gliding with the current through the city.

We ate dinner at Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails, which was great (see foodd and goodies).  While trying to park for dinner, we were told they were closing the area to cars for a cruise ( ??? ).  I asked what that was, this being downtown, and clearly not a cruise port.  The guard told us that it was a vintage car cruise, and they would be driving a route around town for display.  Naturally, we sat at the window at Zydeco, and saw much of he parade while eating.

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After dinner, we continued to stroll the “cruise” route, and found this parked just outside the route.

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That’s right! ¬†A brand new Tesla, (with Tim in the driver’s seat) – not vintage, but fabulosity to the nth degree!!! ¬†Nt vintage, but already a modern-day classic.

We went to Volcano for a wine tasting, and of course found several bottles we thought were worth bringing home.

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The town of Sisters was an easy drive from Redmond.  It is a very cool, artsy, pretty town.  We put it right up there with Talkeetna and Homer.

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We stopped into Sisters Smokehouse and bought lunch, and a few sticks of home- made  Teriyaki Pepperoni.  It was sooo delicious.

 

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from there we headed to the McKenzie Highway, OR 242, which is on the National Register of Historic Places due to the fact that it was a wagon route over the Cascades Range.  It is said that you get the experience of hiking a trail, while driving in your car.  It was a very interesting ride through a mountain pass on a very narrow trail of steep grades and switchbacks.  The scenic route also crosses 65 square miles of lava fields, much like Craters of the Moon National Park, but more mountainous, and with more recent volcanic activity.  It is closed for winter as early as Labor Day.  Snow packs and ice of up to 14 feet are common on the summit of the road.

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65 sq miles of this stuff…

And this lava reminds me – we did visit a roadside oddity in Redmond – Petersen’s Rock Garden.¬†Rasmus Petersen (1883-1952), born in Denmark, built his rock garden in the last 17 years of his life, in tribute to his adopted new country. He collected rocks, petrified wood, glass, and shells from around Redmond, and began building replica structures at the age of 52 — when most people start to slow down.¬†The Garden is still owned and run by Petersen’s grandchildren, and in 2013 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. ¬†Below is one of many buildings Mr. Petersen created on his four acres.

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At the end of every day, we were left in awe of beautiful sunsets.IMG_0744

 

Heading south to California, we were treated to Mt. Shasta, a potentially active volcano located at the southern end of the Cascade Range.  At an elevation of 14,179 feet, it is the second highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in California.

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It’s beauty is difficult to describe, but John Muir said it best.

‚ÄúWhen I first caught sight of Mount Shasta over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒ John Muir, 1874

“…my blood turned to wine…” ¬†ahhhhh – don’t you just love that phrase! I sure do.

I don’t know about you, but we don’t think of ice and glaciers when we think of California. ¬†In fact, we never realized just how many glaciers we would see on this trip – amazing! ¬†( And so sad they are receding )

Next stop was Redding, California, and the Win-River Resort & Casino (see posting under Campground Reviews).  This is just a short  drive from the glaciers of Mt. Shasta, yet,  it is 108 degrees outside. Thankfully, it is a dry heat, so it is much more bearable Рat least for me.  Win-River is a delight.  When you use the RV park, you receive a pass for the fitness center, business office, pool, and hot tub.

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We visited the #1 attraction in Redding, The Sundial Bridge.  

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And  by the way, where (above) is Waldo?

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The Sundial Bridge is a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge for bicycles and pedestrians, that spans the Sacramento River.¬†The support tower of the bridge forms a single 217-foot mast that points due north at a cantilevered angle, allowing it to serve as the gnomon (the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow) of a sundial. ¬†The Sundial Bridge gnomon’s shadow is cast upon a large dial to the north of the bridge, although the shadow cast by the tower is exactly accurate on only one day in a year ‚Äď the summer solstice. ¬†The tip of the shadow moves at approximately one foot per minute so that the Earth’s rotation about its axis can be seen with the naked eye. ¬†This amazing architectural structure¬†was designed by Santiago Calatrava, at a cost of $23,500,000. ¬† It took 11 years to build, and opened in 2004. ¬†The bridge has become iconic for Redding, and definitely worth a visit.

Tomorrow, we leave Redding, CA , and head south again. ¬†Since we’re so close to her area, we’re going to ¬†take the opportunity to visit Tim’s sister Patty once again. ¬†We’ll see you there.

OY, CANADA

August 2016

Canada, we love you. ¬†The drive to Alaska and back was once in a lifetime — ¬†hopefully. ¬†After miles and miles (literally, thousands of miles) of beautiful forests, mountains, glaciers, wildlife, uncrowded highways and gravel roads (three cracked windshields), “first people” and “last frontiers”, loonies and toonies, the boonies, liters and meters, cheap poutine, and expensive “petrol”, we’re thrilled to be back in our more cosmopolitan homeland.

Just remember we do love you, O Canada, ’cause we could be back as soon as November (after election day).

Picture of cracked windshield from a rock…

Version 2

and again, a rock…

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and oh no, not again !!! ¬†this time a kamikaze raven…

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See you in the states…

 

 

 

 

 

YO, CANADA

July, 2016

“Yo Canada. ¬†How yous doin’? We’re back.”

(Say the title ¬†out loud with a “Rocky” accent – you know you want to…)

Back in Canada on our way home to Philly, PA. ¬†But first…

Here we are in Valdez, Alaska.  We were not expecting what we found here.  Although Valdez has several very large RV parks, and a few hotels, it seems to be primarily a town not necessarily for tourists, but a town where people live and work.  A giant oil refinery/storage facility terminus is located here.

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There is also a very large company that processes seafood, called Peter Pan Seafood, Inc.  We drove by and saw dormitories, a recreation room, and a mess hall.

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There is a small boat harbor, which has several companies that offer cruises through the Prince William Sound. The Sound is home to  various tidewater glaciers including Columbia Glacier, and Meares Glacier (one of two advancing tide water glaciers in North America). Valdez is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest, the second largest National forest in the U.S.

Some of Valdez’s history is sad. The city ¬†was badly shaken, but not destroyed, by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. The glacier silt that formed the city’s foundation, turned to liquid, that¬†led to a massive underwater landslide, which caused a section of the city’s shoreline to break off and sink into the sea. ¬†Can you imagine the horror? The underwater soil displacement caused a local tsunami 30 feet high. ¬†Thirty-two men, women and children were on the city’s main freight dock to help with and watch the unloading of a supply ship, that came to Valdez regularly. All 32 people died as the dock collapsed into the ocean with the violent landslide. How frightening must that have been?

Then, in 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred as the oil tanker Exxon Valdez was leaving the terminal at Valdez full of oil. The spill occurred at Bligh Reef, about 25 miles from Valdez. Although the harbor of Valdez was spared, the oil devastated much of the marine life in the surrounding area.

On January 24, 2014,  a major avalanche occurred just outside Valdez, prompting the closure of the only highway in or out of town. On January 25, Alaska DOT triggered another massive slide that further choked the roadway.

The city has really had its share of misery.  But the people continue to work on bringing their city back.  Visiting Valdez is an absolute must, if just for the journey on the only road in.  It is some of the most breath-taking, jaw-dropping scenery we have seen anywhere in Alaska.  By the way, the ride in borders  Wrangell РSt. Elias National Park.  Hence, the gorgiosity!!!

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Check out this glacier folks…

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Look at the clouds hovering over the mountains…and the mirror-like reflective water at the small boat harbor.

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Now, while I extoll the virtue and beauty of Valdez, it is not without its oddities. ¬†You didn’t think I’d leave those out, did you?

Here we have¬†Lonesome Fish. A sad looking fish stands alone, in a parking lot, since his business was razed…

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and...Whispering Chief.

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I had never heard of The Trail of the Whispering Giants. That’s one more reason I love writing this blog. ¬†I have learned so much about this wonderful country. ¬†Perhaps they are not big things, but interesting things nonetheless. ¬†Tim and I usually joke on the road that if there were a “Senior Jeopardy”, we would apply to be contestants. ¬†“Who is ¬†– Peter Wolf Toth, Alex”.

The Trail of the Whispering Giants is a collection of sculptures by  artist Peter Wolf Toth, who was born in Hungary. The sculptures range in height from 20 to 40 feet tall, and are between 8 and 10 feet  in diameter.  Whispering Chief is 25 feet tall.  Currently there are 74 Whispering Giants, with at least one in each of the 50 U.S. states.

There is a restaurant called The Fat Mermaid. ¬† So…

Where’s Waldo?

 

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(See “Kiss De Girl” in Musings)

Just an update on wildlife sightings. ¬†I think we’ve seen everything there is to see, except the elusive Bull Moose. ¬†I hope we get to see one in the wild before leaving the area. ¬†So far, this is as close as we’ve come.

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By the way, I detest these mounted “trophies”.

After leaving Valdez, we took the opportunity to visit Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. ¬†I had never even heard of this park, and yet, it is the largest park in our US park system. ¬†It is over 13,175,799 acres – that’s million acres, ¬†and is larger than Switzerland. ¬†In addition, 9,078,675 acres ¬†of the park are designated as the largest single wilderness in the United States. ¬†It has the most glaciers in North America,¬†including Malaspina Glacier, the largest piedmont glacier; Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska; and Nabesna Glacier, the world’s longest valley glacier. It has six of the highest mountains in North America, including the second highest peak, Mount St. Elias at 18,008 feet. ¬†We stopped in the visitor center, and drove around as much as we could, but this is a total wilderness park – there aren’t many (any) roads.. ¬†Here is a view while driving in the park near the visitor’s center.

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There is not much in the way of services either.  Campers and hikers are expected to be prepared to fend for themselves.  Tim and I hope to spend a little more time here in the next few years because of its unparalleled beauty.

At this point, we start the trek back to the US through Canada. ¬†Many of the places we visited were on peninsulas, with only one road in. ¬†Therefore, we had to backtrack through the same roads and towns. ¬†While we took the Rocky Mountain Route on the Alcan Highway to Alaska, we’re taking the Gold Rush Route, the Cassiar Highway, home. ¬†We passed Destruction Bay, and a very small town called Burwash Landing. ¬†We saw something impressive there. ¬†I’m sure you’ve all seen roadside memorials for people who have lost their lives on the road. ¬†Sometimes teddy bears, pictures, and sometimes plain crosses, or flowers. ¬†This is one that sticks with you. ¬†It is a tribute to a young man whom family and friends called “Dougie”. ¬†All hand-carved statues, on land donated by his tribe.

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We stopped at Jade City, which is not really a city at all, even though it’s on maps. ¬†It is basically a jade store and mine, owned and operated by the same family since 1972. ¬†They advertise that the Cassiar Mountain Range supplies 92% of the world’s jade. ¬†I would have guessed China…

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From Dease Lake, we took a spur road to Telegraph Creek, an old mining town.  It was a crazy ride along a very steep dirt and gavel road with 20% hill grades.  We had never seen a road this steep with no guard rails or shoulders, and drop-offs that plunge 400 feet down, sometimes on both sides.  2 1/2 hours in, and 2 1/2 hours out, on a 70 mile trail.

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We took Spur road 37A off of the Cassiar Highway and visited the towns of Stewart-Hyder. ¬†The ride in was fab, with lots of glaciers and waterfalls. ¬†Stewart is in British Columbia, and just 2.3 miles away is Hyder, in Alaska. ¬†Interesting, you don’t have to show any identification to cross into Hyder, but you do need passports to get back into Canada. ¬†Isn’t that odd? ¬†Anyway, the reason for us to go to Hyder was to get “Hyderized“. ¬†We did get hyderized, and have the documents to prove it.

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It’s a little gimmick the Glacier Inn uses for advertising. ¬†You must sit at the bar. ¬†The barmaid gives you a shot glass with clear liquor, and a glass of water as a chaser. ¬†You may not smell or taste it – you have to chug it. ¬†They won’t tell you what it is until after you drink it – and I’m not going to tell you !!! ¬†because you won’t be able to get your card.

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Our next stop is Smithers. ¬†I think that’s a funny name. ¬†Why? ¬†Well, you have¬†Waylon J. Smithers, Jr., usually referred to as Mr. Smithers or simply Smithers, a recurring ¬†character in the sitcom The Simpsons. And then you have the rhyming ¬†Julius Caesar Dithers. ¬†Mr. Dithers is Dagwood’s boss in the Blondie and Dagwood comic strip.( I guess after almost a year on the road in our little “home”, I’m getting just a teensy bit flaky.)

SMITHERS

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DITHERS

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Smithers is a very cute little town, with a bustling main street.  Unfortunately, there was a power outage when we arrived, and everything was closed tight, for quite a while.

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In the 1980s, tourism promoters in British Columbia encouraged every town to develop some kind of landmark to put themselves on the map, in the order of Prince George’s roadside oddity, “MR. PG”. ¬† Here are just a few.

Prince George

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Prince George boasts their tallest celebrity. MR PG.  MR PG was first constructed in 1960 as a symbol of the importance of the forest industry to Prince George.

Today Mr. PG stands happily at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 16, but still welcomes all visitors to a Prince George that owes much to the forest industry.  Mr. PG is 27 feet high, and is primarily made out of fiberglass and sheet metal,  painted to look like wood.  He can usually be seen in local parades, and is often dressed in holiday costumes.

Houston

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The¬†Largest Fly Rod in the World is situated in Houston’s Steelhead Park. It was the brainchild of fisherman Warner Jarvis and was installed May 5, 1990

The rod is constructed entirely of aluminum and anodized bronze to simulate graphite. It is 60 feet ¬†long and weighs about 800 pounds. The reel has a diameter of 36 inches.¬†The fly is a fluorescent orange “Skykomish Sunrise” and is 21 inches long, tied on a bright 5/8″ floating line of hollow plastic with a tapered leader (weed-eater cord and 300 test tip). A nail knot and a blood knot are used on the rod.

The rod can be seen in a natural setting in the park. It is illuminated at night. Dedicated to the people of Houston, the Largest Fly Rod in the World  continues to draw attention to one of the best fishing spots in B.C. ( sorry, it was a very cloudy day when we took this photo)

100 Mile House  (the town name)

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Moving south, in 100 Mile House, we find the World’s Largest Cross-Country Skis, along with a 30 foot pair of poles, to demonstrate how seriously this area takes cross-country skiing. ¬†They can be found outside the Visitor’s Center.¬†¬†The South Cariboo ¬†prides itself in being one of the best cross-country ski holiday destinations in North America. ¬†It¬†has one of the longest groomed network of trails in Canada.

Our last night in Canada was spent in Cache Creek, which is a very small town, with no obvious oddities – or anything else. ¬†But one thing of note – it is only 3 1/2 hours from the USA border. ¬†The highway is called the Trans-Canada Highway, and it is a lovely ride, with mountains, canyons, creeks and rivers. ¬†Folks, I can’t tell you how happy we’ll be to have our phone service and data available. ¬†Not to mention everything ¬†that is familiar to us. ¬† Because after all – there’s no place like home.

YAHOO! ¬†See you on the other side…